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Paparazzo Says He's a Scapegoat of Hollywood

The photographer pleads not guilty to battery and other charges involving actress Reese Witherspoon at a Disney theme park.

October 13, 2005|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

A paparazzo charged with battery, child endangerment and false imprisonment in allegedly disrupting a birthday outing given by actress Reese Witherspoon for her 6-year daughter at a Disney theme park pleaded not guilty Wednesday and said he was being made a scapegoat by the Hollywood elite.

Photographer Todd K. Wallace, 44, was ordered by Orange County Court Commissioner George Berenson to stay at least 300 yards from Witherspoon and the guests who were with her Sept. 2 at Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim. Berenson had initially directed a 500-yard restriction but Wallace said he lived within that distance of the actress on Los Angeles' Westside.

The arraignment hearing gave the usually quiet North County Justice Center in Fullerton a Hollywood atmosphere as the paparazzo took center stage both inside and outside of court with a small media pack in pursuit.

During the hearing, the photographer known for snapping stars objected to having his own image captured and reproduced in newspapers or on television. But Berenson ruled it would not prejudice the case and decided to allow cameras at the proceeding.

Speaking outside the courtroom, Wallace said there was an effort by Hollywood power players to go after paparazzi.

"The governor on down, the order is do whatever it takes to get us," he said. "I was not touching anyone. They were touching me," he said, contending that Disney park employees had pushed him during the incident involving Witherspoon.

As Wallace headed for his truck in the courthouse parking lot after the hearing, he was hounded by photographers and a television producer, who tried to question him. He declined to speak, and his public defender tried to shield him as Wallace started the truck, which stalled twice before he pulled away.

Wallace is charged with four misdemeanor counts of battery against two California Adventure park employees, an adult friend of Witherspoon and the 5-year-old daughter of the friend. He also faces one count each of child endangerment and false imprisonment.

Wallace allegedly pushed the adults and struck the girl with his camera as he tried to get photos of the actress and her two children. He faces up to 3 1/2 in jail if convicted.

A pre-trial hearing was scheduled for Oct. 28 and a trial for Nov. 9.

Wallace said he would be cleared of any wrongdoing by a videotape of the incident, along with his still photographs.

"I'll show their witnesses aren't telling the truth," he said outside the courtroom. He also briefly showed his still photos to a few reporters.

Anaheim Assistant City Atty. Patrick Ahle, who is prosecuting the case, said he would welcome any videotape of the incident.

Berenson appointed the public defender to represent Wallace, because the photographer said he could not afford an attorney. The photographer said it has been difficult for him to find work since the incident took place.

Wallace spent four years in prison after being convicted in 1992 of second-degree burglary and petty theft, according to state records. He declined to discuss that record Wednesday.

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